German Tesla challenge starts in Stockholm

Mercedes' launch of the EQC electric SUV tomorrow (4 September) marks the start of European return fire against Tesla in the luxury electric segment.

A Reuters report noted sales of Tesla's entry-level Model 3 sedan were expected to reach about 50,000 units this year and almost double that next year.

It said the Mercedes EQC – launch events in Stockholm would feature yoga in a direct appeal to millennials who buy Teslas – was the first EQ brand production model while BMW and Audi rivals would follow.

"While Tesla currently has a strong hold on the luxury electric market, I don't think this will be the case after the arrival of the German premium offerings," Wajih Hossenally, an automotive powertrain analyst with IHS Markit, told Reuters.

"Tesla has virtually zero competition – but this will change from 2019 onwards."

Rival forecaster LMC Automotive told the news agency it predicted a steady decline in Tesla's slice of the electric car market over the next decade, from 12.3% now to 2.8%, though unit sales would continue to rise.

Combined German market share would pass Tesla to reach 11.8% in 2020 before increasing further to about 19% in 2023, according to LMC projections cited by Reuters.

The report said the new Mercedes, in first customers' hands next year, would be priced close to the combustion engine GLC to compete with Tesla's US$49,000 Model 3, and would get a boost from its popular SUV body style.

Reuters said the German brands were copying Silicon Valley style tactics for the upcoming launches with Mercedes chief executive Dieter Zetsche appearing more often in jeans and sneakers, the city of Stockholm chosen for its startup scene and green credentials, promotional teasers on Instagram and Twitter and Tesla-style announcement of orders before pricing was revealed.

Mercedes claimed over 2,000 refundable EQC deposits of 20,000 crowns in Norway, Europe's biggest electric car market, where Tesla sold 8,500 vehicles last year, Reuters said.

Back in Stockholm, the EQC reportedly will be the centerpiece of a three day launch event that features DJ sets and yoga with a YouTube star.

Reuters also noted Audi today began production of its e-Tron SUV ahead of a 17 September sales launch event in San Francisco, just 40 miles from Tesla's Fremont assembly plant and plans to begin taking reservations backed by refundable US$1,000 deposits.

After arriving at dealers early next year, the e-Tron will be followed in 2020 by two more electric Audi EVs plus the Porsche Taycan.

Not to be outdone, Reuters added, BMW has hired a Lufthansa cargo jet to fly its electric Vision iNext – still just a concept car – from Munich to Beijing via New York and San Francisco. Events are planned in the four cities over five days.

Also apparently Tesla inspired: the three German automakers developing their own network of fast chargers along major highways in a partnership with Ford.

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